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Engaging Politically from the Margin 287

brought to light in the novel.

Though the Great War ends in 1918, in

A God in Every Stone


both the Pashtun independence activism against the British Raj and the

women’s suffrage movement continue into the 1920s and 1930s and

are brought together in Book II of the novel. How the two liberation

movements may collide or unite when they meet across national

borders is a question the novel explores in depth. There is a collision

between the two when Vivian, a Western feminist, is convinced of the

simple oppositions created by the political discourse of Orientalism

that has been dominating the West for centuries: the West versus the

East (or Islam), modern versus traditional, and secularism versus

fundamentalism. For Vivian, in terms of gender equality, London is

much more progressive than Peshawar. As she explains in a letter to

Najeeb, “At present, though, England is by far the most interesting

place to be as my old friend Mrs Mary Moore, a local councillor, plans

to run for Parliament in the next elections, which will be the first to

allow women voting rights on equal terms with men” (Shamsie, 2014c:

225). While suffragettes in Britain are making revolutionary progress,

Vivian “dare[s] say” that “this all seems very odd” to Najeeb, who has

grown up in a traditional Muslim society (225). Vivian remembers that,

in 1915, Najeeb unwillingly ended her private tutoring or “civilising

mission” (113), for it was not right for him to be alone with a woman.

Even if Vivian offered to teach his sisters as well, he refused because

“they’re girls” (197). Vivian is shocked to discover that Pashtun

women are forbidden to receive education and have no right to even

choose what to wear.

In the novel, the veils or burqas that women in Peshawar wear to

cover their bodies in public stand for the oppression of women from

Vivian’s viewpoint even though at times she disguises herself in a burqa

in order to hide her English identity. When she arrives by train in 1930,

for example, she puts on a burqa to safely enter the Peshawar Valley,

which is in turmoil because Pashtuns are protesting for their

independence. “[O]n behalf of the women of the Peshawar Valley,”

Vivian feels “rage” over the restrictive nature of the burqa, finding